Chapter 24

I held Reia’s hand, feeling the life leaving her body and I screamed for Allein to heal her, but Allein could only shake her head.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t heal her… the wounds are too serious…” Her words were almost a whisper and only angered me.

It wasn’t Allein’s fault, but I needed someone, or something to vent my anger on.

“Don’t scream at my sister, there is nothing she can do” Nes was staring me down.

I knew what he said was right, but I couldn’t help it, I was practically delirious.

“Tris, where are you? Do something! Please…..” Tris was watching from a distance, she seemed disturbed about something and didn’t approach us.

Tears streaked my blood stained face, but I didn’t even notice, not that I was crying, and not that I was covered in blood.

“Please, Reia… you can’t die, I need you…”

With no means of help, I could only look down at Reia who was slowly slipping away from me. Her eyes were fluttering and her body was badly bruised and battered, but no matter how damaged her body was, she still looked beautiful to me. She opened her mouth and was trying to say something, but only sounds came out.

I put my ear closer to her lips, “I’m… sorry…”

“Why.. why are you saying sorry? You didn’t do anything wrong, it was all my fault, everything….”

My tears began to fall more rapidly, I could no longer contain them as they poured down from my eyes.

“I don’t want to lose you…”

Allein and Nes watched, saying nothing more. Their faces were also torn and filled with grief as they watched their companion dying. I can’t just let this happen, I must do something, but what?

I looked around the dungeon, for anything. I don’t know what it was I was looking for. I don’t know why I thought there could possibly be anything that would stop Reia from dying, but I grasped onto the last bastion of hope I had. She would not last much longer and if I didn’t do something quickly, she would be gone forever.

I remembered the voice I heard, when I was teetering between life and death myself, earlier in the battle. It had told me to consume it, whatever it was. My body then absorbed, something, from my surroundings. I had absorbed the black mist from the dungeon itself. I couldn’t see the ceiling, it was too dark, but when I was on the fifth floor, I noticed a translucent mist which permeated the walls of the dungeon.

I suddenly became quiet, Nes and Allein gave me a questioning look, they didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t certain myself, but something had spoken to me in my time of need. I reached out with my mind, or more clearly, I imagined myself reaching out with my mind. Help me… Please….

“What will you give me?” A voice answered me!

It was the same voice I had heard in my mind earlier. Even though I had reached out hoping for an answer, the fact that I got one shocked me. I didn’t have time to try to figure it out and I responded without much thought.

Anything, just please, save her.

“Consume me.” When I heard those words, I reached out with all the will I could muster and once again the black mist swirled around me, it was coming from the dungeon itself.

It swirled, pulsating violently, an unimaginable force that shook the very fabric of reality. I didn’t know how to describe it and while the others could not see the black mist as I could, they could suddenly feel a violent and turbulent wind that was menacing, yet warm. The others braced themselves as the turbulent wind grew stronger, violently shaking the air around us. It was as if a tornado was forming right then and there, but only I could see the black mist which was at its apex. My body was being filled once again with an immense power.

“The vessel is still weak” That voice of unknown origin filled me once again.

“Quickly, before your body breaks and crumbles from the strain”

I grabbed Reia’s hand once again and the energy which filled me poured into her body, through me. Her body jerked, bending upwards as she gasped. Her eyes were filled with the black mist which seeped into her body through mine. Her body visibly began to mend itself. Her broken bones twisted back into place and her battered body returned to its original form.

Reia screamed in pain, the scream pierced through the dungeon and even the violent wind caused by the dungeon’s energy could not stop the sound completely. I held on, feeling myself being drained of the energy which my body had absorbed and Reia breathed life once more.

It ended, the mist had fully dissipated and the violent wind it had caused stopped. It was quiet, no one said a word and then Reia heaved and gulped a large breath of air. She opened her eyes, looked straight up at me, and smiled.

“You saved me.” Her voice was clear and pure, and filled my heart with joy.

She was alive and all I could do was attempt to speak while stumbling with my words. Her feminine laugh shattered my heart, and her smile was as radiant as the sun. I don’t know why, but it was as if it was the first time I was laying my eyes on her.

In a strange way, I felt a connection between us that wasn’t there before. It was as if my life and hers had become intertwined and we were no longer two, but one. Is this some kind of aftereffect of what I did? I couldn’t be certain, but that was all I could come up with at the time.

A strange glow caught my eye on Reia’s exposed abdomen, and I glanced at it and saw a strange mark that was not there before. It was pulsing brightly, but soon dimmed, as if it had been burned into her flesh. She didn’t seem to be in pain, so perhaps it only appeared to be burning. It was a strange symbol in the shape of a black whirlwind. It wasn’t very large, and it was right below her navel. I touched it without thinking which elicited a response from Reia.

“Fayde… what are you doing?”

“Oh, sorry. Look…” I pointed to where the symbol was, the only reason it was visible is because her armor and clothing had become tattered there, which had exposed it.

“What is that?” She asked in a confused manner.

Allein and Nes had now approached us too and were looking at it, but Tris kept her distance. She seemed to be considering what she should do, approach or not. I couldn’t really figure out what she was thinking, but it didn’t matter at this point.

“I don’t know, but I think it is somehow connected to whatever it is I did to heal you.”

Reia touched it, running her fingers around the symbol as she sat up. I helped her, worried that she might still be hurt.

“I am fine, don’t worry. Actually, I am better than fine, I even feeling stronger. How strange? I also feel some kind of connection with you….” As she said that, she had an expression of wonderment.

“Can you feel it too?” I nodded, so it wasn’t just in my head after all.

Somehow, whatever it is I did, connected us and we could now feel this connection. It was strange and I could even now feel her presence in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

“Are we connected somehow? What does this mean?”

“I don’t know Reia, but somehow, whatever it is I did, connected us. I am sorry, it was the only way to save you….”

“Why are you apologizing? You saved my life and even more so, I feel more connected to you than I ever had. I am happy.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, but I also felt her happiness.

“What did you do to her?” Allein asked in anger.

She walked over to me and pushed me back away from Reia.

“What are you doing Allein!?” I was surprised by her response and was confused by her reaction.

“Do whatever you did to her, to me! Right now!”

I could only think that she must be jealous. Allein sometimes confused me. She hardly ever showed any emotion towards me, but often exhibited a possessive attitude when it came to me. She seemed to think that I belonged to her, but had no real emotions about it one way or the other. It was difficult for me to figure her out. This was the first time I ever experienced her show sincere emotion about anything.

“I am not really sure what I did?” She didn’t seem convinced and grabbed my hand in hers.

“Try to do it, now.” Err, I am not sure if this is a good idea….. I suppose it won’t hurt to try?

I didn’t know if it would work, but I figured I would give it a try since I thought I might be able to understand it a little more if I could do it willingly. I reached out with my mind again, just like I did before, but there didn’t seem to be much energy in the dungeon remaining. It seemed that I had used most of it, the dungeon itself seemed to feel strange, like it was on the verge of dying.

It was a difficult feeling to explain, but I willed myself to absorb the remaining energy and I could feel energy seeping into me again, it wasn’t as powerful as before. I needed more energy and tried my best to absorb every last drop I could connect to with my mind. Then, strangely, I felt the energy leaving me and entering Allein through our hands.

Unlike before, I started to feel my own energy seeping out of my body, the energy of the dungeon didn’t seem to be enough. I started to feel weaker, as my energy left me, it was as if I was being directly drained. I tried to break free of Allein’s grasp but she wouldn’t let me go. I started to feel light headed, but the energy continued to drain out of me.

“Allein, please, let go…”

Before she could comply, the energy stopped draining from my body and I could now feel a connection with Allein, just like the one I had with Reia.

What just happened?

Allein seemed satisfied with the results.

“So this is what it feels like. I am now connected with you as well.”

Ugh, what did I just get myself into? I felt a little weaker than I was before, but it didn’t seem to have any other detrimental effects.

“What did you do to my sister?” Nes was berating me.

“Get your hands off of her!” He slapped my hand away from Allein.

“It’s kind of too late for that now, and she was the one who forced me to do it, so why don’t you just relax? I can’t deal with this right now.”

He didn’t seem happy with my response but he relented and spoke with his sister, “What did he do to you, are you okay?”

“Relax brother. You don’t need to be so overprotective. Fayde would never allow harm to come to me, isn’t that right Fayde?”

I gave her a somewhat snide look and said, “It’s not like you gave me much of a choice with that. Anyway, do you have a mark like Reia?”

She checked beneath her navel, but there was no mark there.

“Maybe it is somewhere else?”

I looked around her arms, but saw nothing. I turned her around and checked the back of her neck, and there it was. It was on the back of her neck, the same symbol that Reia had. What does this mean? I was scratching my head not knowing what to think, but what I did know was that it somehow connected us and there was a strange symbol on each of them.

“Do you feel anything else Allein?”

“I also feel a little stronger.”

I’ll have to look more into this in the future.

“What did you do to them?” It looked like Tris finally decided to join us, but she seemed wary for some reason.

“I don’t really know Tris, I somehow, connected with them, I guess?”

I didn’t know how to explain it better than that and I didn’t want to tell her about the black mist or the voices I heard. She might think I was crazy or something. I also thought that it would be better if I kept those kinds of things a secret. It wasn’t like I didn’t trust Tris, but I also didn’t want to burden her. I didn’t know if these powers would end up causing trouble for me and those around me.

With Reia, I didn’t really have a choice in the matter and I was stuck with Allein too, so those two were an exception. Oh, what about Nes then? Bah, who cares about him? I thought that only half-jokingly and laughed in my head.

The dungeon suddenly shook, it wasn’t a large tremor, but it was noticeable.

“That’s weird, what’s going on with the dungeon?” Reia asked curiously.

“I can’t really explain why, but I think the dungeon might be, dying?” Is that the right word? Oh well.

“Isn’t that something that only happens once the Dungeon Core is taken? How are you so sure?” Tris seemed awfully inquisitive suddenly.

“I don’t know Tris, it’s just a feeling and I think that tremor was just the beginning. I mean, the dungeon shouldn’t collapse immediately, but I feel that the energy which was keeping it alive is weakening. It should last a while until it is fully destroyed.”

“We should listen to Fayde” Reia chimed in.

“Fine, but what about the Dungeon Core? We should at least grab that.”

For some unexplainable reason, Tris was annoyed and I could also sense a little bit of fear in her. I didn’t really understand her sudden change in temperament. Maybe it had something to do with everything that just happened. I suppose everyone deals with stressful events in different ways.

“Hmm… for some reason I feel it might not be there….” I mumbled that bit and then said, “Fine, let’s go search for the Dungeon Core. It’s most likely in that temple we saw on the fifth floor. After that, we need to rendezvous with the other adventurers and inform them of what has happened. Let’s also grab the proof of our victory against all these monsters.”

It took a good bit of time, but we harvested the parts of the Lizardmen which acted as evidence of our deeds. We also harvested the Lizard King as well. There didn’t seem to be any more monsters around as we were able to complete the harvesting without any interruptions. No enemies were detected and we were left in peace.

After an hour of consistently harvesting all the Lizardmen we had killed, we made our way to the fifth floor and inside the temple. We searched for a long time and even found a place where we felt the Dungeon Core most likely was being housed, but it wasn’t there. We found no Dungeon Core within the temple and eventually decided to give up on it and return to the base camp to inform Orban of our success. I wasn’t sure how I would go about explaining the lack of a Dungeon Core though.

Without the presence of monsters, returning back to the base camp on the first floor took far less time than expected and we were able to make the trip in a day and a half. We didn’t come across any adventuring parties along the way either. Most of the floors were large enough that it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that we didn’t encounter them. The dungeon would occasionally quake, so I figured the others must be aware of what was going on and might have even all gathered on the first floor.

We didn’t have much time for conversation while we were on our way up, and I was still getting used to the connection I now had with both Reia and Allein. Our connection, or maybe better our bond, seemed to also transmit strong emotions. It didn’t pick up on emotions unless they were very strong and it wasn’t clear enough for me to understand exactly what the feelings they were transmitting were. I could feel a sense of warmth coming from both Reia and Allein, but I didn’t know exactly what they were feeling.

The only one of us that seemed out of sorts the entire way was Tris. For some reason, she had been keeping her distance. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was maybe afraid of what happened down there. I guess any rational person would be afraid seeing me practically bring someone back from the dead, not to mention when I went straight through the stomach of the Lizard King. I will have to address it at some point, I suppose. I wasn’t planning on explaining everything to her, but I wanted to make sure she was at least okay. I didn’t want to lose my friendship with her over something like this.

“Looks like we made it.” I said wistfully.

I was happy we made it back to the first floor without incident. We were all exhausted and had only rested a little on our trip back up the dungeon.

The base camp set up by Orban and the Guild was bustling with activity. It seems they had been spurred on by the quaking of the dungeon. I didn’t realize this at the time, but that was the signal that the dungeon had been conquered and the merchants, laborers and adventurers were busy loading up cargo from all the loot that had been collected so far.

Seeing us approach the camp, Orban came running towards us.

“Why am I not surprised it was you guys?” Orban said while chuckling knowingly.

“How did you know?” I asked inquisitively while heaving a sigh of relief from making it back to base camp.

“You are the only adventuring party that was still out there, the others all returned once the dungeon starting quaking. Since you guys are the last group, it had to be you!”

For some reason Orban seemed proud as if he was the one who had conquered the dungeon. It must have been his familiarity with us and of course his fatherly attitude towards Reia that made him feel like it was his accomplishment.

“Yeah, well, we killed the dungeon boss.” I wasn’t really in the mood to explain since I was exhausted, so my answer was terse.

“Did you guys find the dungeon core then? How big was it?”

It wasn’t a question asked out of any kind of malice, anyone would be curious about it.

“Eh… about that…” I was at a loss of how to explain it even though I thought it about it nonstop on the way up.

“Orban, we are exhausted, can you let us rest? We can talk about the details later.”

Thankfully, Reia came to my rescue with her thoughtful response.

“Ah, right. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! Get some rest. There is still a lot to do. We need to gather as much as we can before the dungeon collapses entirely. We should have a few days, but it won’t be necessary for you guys to participate in that since you have already done enough!”

“Thanks for understanding.”

Orban motioned us off and went back to organizing the collection efforts while our group finally had a chance to sleep peacefully.

We had survived and our dungeon expedition had finally come to an end.

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